Challenging roles and borders: Honduran caregiver women in the migration context

In the transnational families of Honduras, caregiver women defy traditionally assigned roles by society in terms of gender, family models, and relationships. The organization of these caregiving roles, which become even more central in the family, involves the distribution of responsibilities and emotions related to them, shaping the experiences of those who stay at home to care for family members who migrate.

This new understanding of transnational family dynamics and the education of minors who remain in the home country while one or both parents migrate faces several limitations. This is due to the constant need to deal with the still prevalent social assumption that the physical presence of the parent is indispensable.

In a recently presented work at the International Congress on Peace Research, researcher Nerea Larrinaga provides insights into the experiences of caregivers in the context of transnational migration.

Adaptation and resilience of caregiver women left behind

The study’s data reveal that caregivers, mostly women, facing the physical absence of family members due to migration not only adapt to this transnational reality but also assume multiple roles and commitments, acting as essential pillars in their homes.

This adaptability is reflected in new forms of communication, relationships, and education for the minors left at home, demonstrating exceptional resilience.

Caregiving is crucial for the cohesion of the transnational family, although it comes at a high cost

Despite literature often presenting challenges in transnational family situations, caregiver women emerge as committed mediators in preserving family cohesion and intimacy, both for those staying in Honduras and those who emigrate.

However, this challenge does not come without costs. Caregiver women feel an excessive burden, not only due to the constant struggle to balance their multiple roles and responsibilities but also because of feelings of guilt and judgment. They experience scrutiny from the rest of the community regarding their way of life, especially in a context where institutional support is lacking.

Academic research connecting with social reality

This work is part of the doctoral thesis being developed by Nerea Larrinaga under the guidance of researchers from Loyola University, Marco Gemignani and Yolanda Hernández. The study aims to deepen the understanding of caregiver women’s experiences to provide a perspective on migration that does not imply a rupture with the country of origin but rather a continuation, extension, and maintenance of relationships over physical distances.

The study is also part of the project “Improving psychosocial care for children with migrant parents and their caregivers from a gender perspective in Western Honduras”, implemented by Loyola University and its Development Institute, Fundación ETEA, with funding from Andalusian cooperation (AACID).

Through interviews and focus groups with caregiver women in the Copán district (Western Honduras) and subsequent reflective thematic analysis of the results, the qualitative research conducted by this investigative team has delved into the experiences of these women, identifying the importance of gender roles, social responsibility, family communication, emotions, and institutional support.